High schoolers get real-world experience through Entrepreneurship Academy – News

Kayla McDonough said she thinks Carbondale’s business incubator should update its Facebook page.

The Carbondale Technology Transfer Center also should try SnapChat and Instagram for its kitchen incubator segment. Given the mobile apps’ ubiquity, especially among young people, potential future clients might be lurking there, she said.

The CTTC wrapped up its third Entrepreneurship Academy in June with about 30 students from Carbondale and, for their first year in the program, about 25 students from the Forest City Regional School District.

McDonough, 17, now a senior, was part of Carbondale Area’s winning team to devise a marketing plan for the CTTC’s kitchen incubator.

John Brennan, an Upvalley funeral director, began developing the Entrepreneurship Academy about a decade ago to instill the pillars of entrepreneurship and business management in students before they leave high school.

Now that it’s up and running, he and CTTC Director Paul Browne are looking to expand into other districts and build financial support with Educational Improvement Organization status from the state.

The designation lets companies receive tax credits for donations. An application to the state is pending, Browne said.

For their inaugural partnership, Forest City students worked with NEP Telephone, headquartered in the borough, to develop a marketing plan for the company’s internet, telephone and cable services.

Vice President and General Manager Richard P. Swiderski said it gives the students a real-world look under the hood of running a business. So, he crafted his message to them on techniques for things like enhancing customer experience, building value and tried-and-true marketing strategies.

He also found that the high schoolers had some critiques for NEP’s own marketing plan — particularly its website.

“The perception was that some of the sites that they visited were crisper, cleaner — that was a takeaway for us,” Swiderski said. “So we’re going to probably re-do, or at least clean up, our website a little bit.”

Students break up into teams of four or five, said Carbondale Area business teacher and program faculty sponsor Licia Olivetti.

Throughout the regular school year, teams devise marketing plans with a prize, like ballgame tickets or gift cards, for the winner, she said.

Business development leaders visit every two weeks or so, as scheduling allows, to talk about other principles like drafting a business plan and finance.

Team projects focus on marketing because it’s one principle students can readily grasp, Brennan explained.

“It’s a good combination because basically, the local business community that participates, they kind of get a good focus group of … (young people). And from the educational standpoint, it shows the kids that there’s more out there besides PSSAs and standardized tests,” he said.

Contact the writer:

joconnell@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9131;

@jon_oc on Twitter

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